Exclusive interview with Edouard Meylan: How H. Moser & Cie is the calm within the storm of the current global crisis
Editor’s note: This is our second interview with industry leaders in our segment of talking about everything from upcoming 2020 novelties to COVID-19’s impact on the Swiss watch industry. For our introductory one with Ming Thein of MING watches, please head here.
A picture is worth a thousand words they say. It’s also said that it is quietest in the eye of the storm. Both of these adages sum up H. Moser & Cie’s watches.
Their watches have become the benchmarks of understated elegance; in-fact given that they are devoid of any branding or complexly cluttered dials, they redefine understated. The brand’s distinctive minimalist design codes are slowly reinventing the world of Haute Horlogerie and revolutionising the way we look at time. Just look at the Endeavour Concept or Vantablack® watches and you will see what I mean.
They imbibe the above quotes in that no amount of marketing and branding can sometimes eclipse the charm of a plain dial of a H. Moser & Cie watch. And while their watches are elegant yet simple, they are causing quite a storm in the industry around them.
In Edouard Meylan’s own words, if his brand were to be described in one sentence, it would be: “H. Moser & Cie. is a family own(ed) and run manufacture creating elegant and classic watches with an edge”.
It is this “edge” part that’s been dictating the brand’s ascent from a new brand to a small brand to a leading independent brand to a small established brand to its current status of an up and coming one-of-the-big-players.
This thinking is further evident when asked what does he reckon today’s customer is looking for.
“Value, exclusivity and edginess,” he says, short and to the point.
This concept of edginess he has referred to twice in our interview has of late otherwise been missing from the industry as a whole. Unfortunately disruptive is not a word people usually associate the Swiss watch industry with these days. It’s more of how the Apple watch is disrupting the Swiss watch industry and not in a good way.
The industry is very well set in its centuries old rules and know-hows. The Swiss watch industry, like any consortium of like companies in one industry, needs to learn to adapt. And the viability to adapt now is more needed than ever.
The Swiss industry is headed for an unprecedented slump. Let’s face it, the present economic state is not looking promising. Factories are momentarily shut. Watch fairs like Baselworld have been cancelled. Hong Kong first gave the luxury industry a big blow due to the riots, and now the COVID-19 virus that taken out the support from the big Asian markets such as China and Singapore. According to Bangkok Post “Swiss watch exports fell the most in eight months in February, with shipments to China and Hong Kong slumping 52% and 42% respectively”.
In the midst of all this, what the Swiss watch industry needs is a revolution.
French author Anaïs Nin once said: “Societies in decline have no use for visionaries.” The Swiss watch industry needs to see the reality in this statement.
Or to quote someone from this generation, Richelle Mead, the author of Vampire Academy said that “the greatest and most powerful revolutions often start very quietly, hidden in the shadows.”
To out it straight, they need to re-think their strategies.
And some of them are: Patek is now selling online, Breitling’s Georges Kern has a highly engaging Instagram strategy to launch new releases, IWC has a new online platform (Time Well Shared) that will feature talks and other digital media to connect the industry, MB&F’s ‘Bulldog’ watch is nothing short of a kinetic art wonderland, and H. Moser has a new e-platform where you can buy new or certified used Moser watches.
It is an industry where various brands have commanded the top tier respect and have stayed there unchanged. This has been both good and bad; good because they have the lineage and the centuries old expertise to produce superior watches. This is also bad because creativity has taken a back seat. The successful tried and tested formula prevails, very evident in the entire steel sports watch shortage and the release of limited after limited editions of the same watch for instance. There is then hardly any room for this new, imperative edginess.
In the midst of all of this enters H. Moser & Cie
It’s a young company, having been reinvigorated only in 2005. In that, it’s like new money and appeals to a younger generation of watch enthusiasts. But it’s also an old company, the original H. Moser & Cie was founded by independent watchmaker Heinrich Moser in Russia in 1828. And in that, it’s like old money, appealing to seasoned collectors.
When you get down to the nitty-gritty of it all, it’s actually both. And it is this advantage of being able to take the best of both worlds is what has worked immensely in favour of H. Moser & Cie.
The legendary Jean-Claude Biver in an interview with Esquire Singapore drove this point home clearly: “… you speak two languages. You speak to collectors and to the next generation.”
Edouard Meylan & his H. Moser & Cie family seem to have embraced these very ideas and are starting a (perhaps) unintentional yet strong revolution of their own.
This is evident in their new products.
“The kind of new products that can open new doors and bring you to the next level. This is a new segment for Moser, a segment that some might find surprising and others will discover Moser for the first time,” says Meylan talking about the inspiration behind releasing novelties this year.
Past, present & future
Since its recent inception, H. Moser & Cie have unveiled the “Moser Nature Watch” as a homage to the idea of sustainability; designed a watch case made of Swiss cheese to promote what Edouard Meylan believes are the flaws with the “Swiss Made” regulations; have introduced the Swiss Alps Watch as a reaction to the Apple Watch; and launched collections like the Vantablack® and the Endeavour Concept that are devoid of all branding yet are instantly recognisable.
Edouard Meylan’s H. Moser & Cie has truly embraced the ideas of change and uniqueness and are one Swiss brand that are definitely looking towards the future.
“It was therefore important for us to continue to establish Moser as the leader in classic elegant watches with stunning minimalists design this is the reason why we decided to launch the Funky Blue concepts and the Vantablack series this year,” he says.
2020 has been a big year for Moser so far; they released the Streamliner, the Endeavour Concepts, and the Vantablack® editions. In the midst of all that’s going on, regardless somehow they couldn’t have locked in a better time to do so.
“We decided to release the Streamliner this year because we felt it was finally ready. It took us 5 years to develop and this is one of the biggest launch for us”, says Meylan.
This attitude of moving towards the future is evident in Meylan’s revelation that there will be further upcoming 2020 novelties.
“There is one other big launch coming up soon. This is a collaboration that we developed with another brand. Such a collaboration has never been done at this level. This creation is nothing like what Moser has ever done before yet it is very Moser,” he says.
Moser’s upcoming novelties while looking promising nonetheless sit within the global context of the spreading of the virus.
The global pandemic is affecting the entire Swiss watchmaking industry as a whole. In its midst it’s important to see how the balance of power between big and smaller brands will change.
Meylan believes that “we will see a strong acceleration of digitalisation both for sales and communication.”
“Small brands will come out stronger if it doesn’t last more than 6 months as our agility, reactivity and flexibility will help us, however if it lasts more than 6 months then big brands with big pockets will come out stronger… so let’s all hope we get out of this as fast as possible,” he adds.
Seems like they are doing pretty well for themselves already though. They have been climbing the success ladder this year and intend to continue doing so.
“The Streamliner is our hot collection in 2020 with more surprises to come as we have already sold out the first 100 pieces limited edition,” he says.
It’s not that the brand is completely immune to the crisis but has faith in the future.
“The biggest issue for us today is that many suppliers are closed which means that even if our pipeline is full we can’t produce as much as we would like. Luckily the Swiss government is very supportive,” he says.
All is not bleak for the brand
Forbes may write about “How Apple killed the Swiss watch industry” with its numbers based presentation, but as long as brands like H. Moser & Cie exist, no one can deny the power of selling unique dreams.
“Results are tracking slightly below 2019 but we had the chance to have very strong launches early in the year. The launch of our e-commerce platform has also helped us a lot in March and April already,” he says.
The next phase of H. Moser &. Cie’s evolution is bright. The brand is looking at it’s “own boutiques, more e-commerce and more crazy new products…. (so) business as usual”, he sums up.
The brand is serious, but also has a sense of humour
“45 years old (man) stylish man, with a strong self-confidence and entrepreneurial spirit” is how Meylan defines his ideal customer.
We didn’t know whether to accept this at face value and believe that the brand exactly knows it’s ideal customer, or to take it with a pinch of salt and humour. After all, Edouard Meylan is himself almost 45 and fits the description of his ideal customer to the T. Perhaps the ideal customer is a reflection of himself.
What we do know is that H. Moser & Cie is a tour de force that virus or no virus, will continue to shake the entire luxury Swiss watchmaking industry. It is indeed the quiet centre in the middle of the storm.
For more information on this watch and other H. Moser & Cie watches, head to their website here.